Duterte mulls using police powers to start Kaliwa dam project

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 28) — A planned dam project to be constructed by Chinese companies may finally move forward, if President Rodrigo Duterte pushes through with a declaration he will use police powers if he has to, for the project to start.

"I am taking stock of my options. Expropriation or outright police power... it has to be confiscatory," Duterte told reporters in an ambush interview Monday.

The Kaliwa Dam project has been stalled by protests and criticisms from environmental activists, locals and indigenous people. The dam, which would straddle the provinces of Rizal and Quezon, will fall within what the Dumagat people claim is their ancestral domain.

However, with the recent water shortages in Metro Manila, the government has become more aggressive in pushing for the dam's construction.

"You have every right to protest if it really puts your place in jeopardy. But if the safeguards are there and between your concerns and the crisis that we are trying to avoid, I will use the extraordinary powers of the presidency," Duterte said.

On the possible damage to the environment, Duterte said he is prioritizing the water supply in Metro Manila.

"It might create some danger or damage, but that is not my concern. My concern is the welfare, the greatest good for the greatest number. That is democracy," Duterte said.

In an earlier press conference Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the planned dam for Metro Manila's water supply is not final.

Panelo said the contract with Chinese firms for the construction of the Kaliwa Dam project could still be rescinded if, after the government probe, the project is found to be not in the best interests of the Filipino people.

"If the findings show that it is indeed disadvantageous and against the interest of the people there, then it can be rescinded, Panelo said.

He added that a Japanese firm has sent a letter to Malacañang on it's alternative Kaliwa weir project, which they claim is better for the people, and less expensive. Panelo said the letter was forwarded to proper authorities.

READ: Japanese firm pushes for alternative to China-funded Kaliwa dam

Panelo said the government is still investigating the Kaliwa dam project, which faces criticism from the indigenous people living in the area and environmental groups.

He did not say specify which government agencies are involved in the probe.

However, the project has gained ground, as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on October 23 approved the environmental compliance certificate for the project to the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System.

READ: DENR approves environmental clearance of China-funded Kaliwa Dam project